Blog Archives

Summer Holidays

Family fun

We spent all of the 4th of July week (and both weekends) up at my folks house.  It was quite the event.  Small resort towns around the Brainerd Area do big celebrations.  We didn’t watch any fireworks, but we could hear them.  Every evening!

Opa and Jager on there way off to Waldsee

Because we came up, Dad got to get several things checked off his “to do” list.  He went to a meeting, got his snow blower tuned up, and put new tires on the car.  He also had his buddy Orion along for 3 parades and a trip up to International Day at Concordia Language Villages

Orion attended Waldsee, the German village, with his Opa as his aid for 10 years starting 20 years ago.  It was fun for the two of them to return to their old stomping grounds.  There were even several people there who remembered them from years gone by.   The old Dean, Karl, noticed them across the way and stopped what he was doing so he and his wife could catch up with Jager and Opa.

Mom usually makes us pick up the pizza and bring it home, but the promise of air-conditioning got her moving.

I kept Mom occupied while the boys were out and about.  Ordinarily we’d be taking things easy at home, but the air conditioning died the day I arrived.  So we had our own “out and about” adventures.  We decided it was too hot to be home and went out for a drive and pizza.

We had a great “girls day” and a beautiful lunch

We collected my sister, Andrea, and ran errands in Brainerd.  (That really meant lunch at Prairie Bay and Mom sitting in the air conditioned car while one or the other of us ran into the store.)

We ate pretty well at home too.  When I’m there I do a lot of the cooking, or at least the meal planning.  When I can stand it, I’ll enlist Dad’s help.

Dad does a great job on the grill

 

 

That’s especially true for grilling.  I’m more than happy to let him set up the coals and carry things back and forth, at least most of the time.  We’re still in mourning about that beautifully cooked salmon.

But sometimes the carrying is a problem

 

 

Dad did have a chance to redeem himself.  At my request he made mussels and a fresh focaccia to go with them.  Even Orion thought they were really tasty!

The baker with his masterpiece

It was a great trip.  We had a great time.  It was also pretty physically demanding.  The drive took at least an hour longer than usual – in both directions.  The heat and humidity was draining, and it wasn’t always easy to breathe.  General household chores (which I do more of up there than at home) take their toll, as do extra transfers with Orion and massage work on Mom.

Orion thinks seafood is pretty good stuff

Now I’m glad to be home, laying on my back on an ice pack.

Sorry about not being able to get the photos aligned properly.

 

Advertisements

Gifting

An extra blog!  Reposting because I found a wonderful site about gifts to give your favorite author (and ME!) for the holidays.  Since Yule is this weekend – Enjoy that longest night! – I figured I’d better get this out there just in case you’d forgotten to add me to your gift list.  🙂

Here’s the link to the original

Along with the post – and my commentary

Decorated-Christmas-gifts-2

1. Mention their name/book when someone asks “What are you reading?”   (Or anytime you talk with someone about Spirituality!)

2. Add their book(s) to Goodreads groups and lists.  (Yes please)

3. Buy and give their books as gifts to people on your Christmas list.  (What a great idea!  I have some if you need them – I’d even sign them for you.)

4. Request your local library get their books.  (Hey!  I have friends who are librarians.  They have limited budgets.  Books that are requested get higher priority.)

5. If children/youth books, tell your child’s teacher/librarian/PTA about the books.  (Well,  I think maybe your churches, circles, women’s groups, specialty bookstores, and the folks in all those classes you’ve been taking.)

6. Suggest the author/book for your book group. (There’s plenty in my books to talk about!)

7. Follow author on Twitter and retweet.  (Maybe GET me on Twitter – but the same is true with Facebook or linked-in and my blog.  The more you “like”, comment, and especially share the more people see it.)

8. Like their author Facebook page and comment occasionally so author knows someone is out there.  (I do have an author page on Facebook Lisa Spiral)

9. Write an email to author.  (I always love to hear from folks about what they got out of my books or how they are using them.)

10. Leave a review on Amazon or other site of your choice.  (Even better!  Amazon, Goodreads, or even those small newsletters that bookstores and religious communities put out.  Hey – The Edge occasionally prints book reviews too.)

Seriously, these things mean a lot. Thanks for reading!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!   (AND A JOYOUS YULE FROM ME!)

S. Smith is the author of the awesome and award-winning middle grade/YA series, Seed SaversVisit her Facebook and Pinterest pages. Follow her on TwitterSign up for the newsletter!

Holidays

The Yule log is ready to light.

The Yule log is ready to light.

Here I am smack in the middle of holiday celebrations.  The solstice last weekend rang in a whirlwind of festivities.  I took a small part in a public Yule ritual put on by Harmony Tribe.

What's a Yule without flying reindeer?

What’s a Yule without flying reindeer?

This was an afternoon event and very kid friendly.  I think there were almost as many children present as adults.  There was storytelling about the traditions of the holiday, including flying reindeer.  It was a short and simple ritual with lots of laughter and singing.  I like the public events for the post ritual food.  It’s an opportunity to catch up with folks I don’t see regularly.   Lots of hugs and sharing.

That same evening the small coven I belong to gathered for their Solstice Rite.  The Deities we were working with are travelers, migratory and so the space was filled with carpets and pillows to make a wayside rest, a caravanserai.  The God in particular has a role as guardian for the shamans.   Think about the neolithic caves, the walls painted with stories of shamanic travels.   This God sits before the cave entrance to guard and protect those who enter to journey.  So we started the rite with drumming and guided meditation seeking help to fulfill our visions for the coming year.

Our altar set in the center of the Caravanserai.

Our altar set in the center of the Caravanserai.

Feasting is a big deal in our group and we did well this year.  We had smoked salmon and apples and hard cheese and fig whip.  We had pork roast and venison with gravy.  We had brussel sprouts and garden salad and wild rice.  Desert included baklava, stollen, and sugar cookies with a poppy-seed frosting.  Since I can’t find the cord that lets my camera talk to my computer I didn’t take many photos.  I’m not nearly as good with the camera on my phone.  I promise I’ll try to do better along the way.

Sunday was another Solstice celebration.  This time with the community at Walker church.  I wrote about them when the old building burned in a fire.  The new church is built and just opened so we got to celebrate at the new hearth fire.   Solstice is the celebration of the returning light after the longest night of the year.  For this ritual start in darkness and light candles representing the blessings that have shone for us that they may light us into the new year.  It’s a pretty ritual and it was a delight to celebrate with this community in a beautiful new space.

Being one of those folks who values spirituality in whatever form it’s offered I still have Christmas celebrations to come.  There is cooking to do this week in anticipation of the holiday.  Next Monday’s blog will give you the play-by-play of my family’s Christmas “Chopped” challenge.  I even have plans for a pajama party for New Years eve!

Hope your holidays a full of love and laughter.  May your travels be smooth and safe.  May your holiday wishes come true.  I’ll light a candle in thanks for all the warm comments you’ve left over the year.  Thank you for reading!  Blessed Be.

Eggnog malaise

Mom and Andrea

Mom and Andrea

This post holiday blues thing is getting to me.  It hasn’t helped that Orion and I have been passing a variety of versions of “ick” back and forth.  Currently he’s complaining of a sore throat.  It seems as soon as one of us is feeling better the other one is feeling worse!

I would bet there is a small portion of that “just don’t feel right” that can be attributed to over indulging.  I know that New Years Eve meal – the egg nog challenge – can’t have been great for my system.  All by itself I probably would have been alright.  The problem is that it comes after the alcohol and appetizers.  I’m not sure I can even name all the appetizers!

Darcy and Danny at the Appetizer buffet

Darcy and Danny at the Appetizer buffet

My attempt at a list: There was spinach dip with my Dad’s homemade bread, gravlax (also courtesy of my father) and his famous carmel corn.   There was shrimp cocktail, “sheep dip” (it’s really a crab and shrimp on cream cheese but if you call it that no one wants it and there’s more for you.), and the caviar and oyster thing.  There was chocolate (Lindt truffles) and my sister Andrea (or her beau – Butch) made a lovely brochette with tomato and pesto.  I suspect someone threw out some pickled herring at one point or another.  There were probably cookies somewhere as well.

Karina and Danny with hot sugar and hazelnuts

Karina and Danny with hot sugar and hazelnuts

Our host and hostess (we’re talking again about  Andrea and Butch ) were delightful, helpful and a little overwhelmed with everyone trying to cook at once.  It was Karina teaching Danny how to candy hazelnuts that really got everyone in the kitchen.  We all wanted to try our hand at it.

Zac plating his salad

Zac plating his salad

I didn’t take a lot of photos.  My batteries were acting up and it seems the spares I brought were old as well.  Both Karina and Darcy  made a point of taking photos of each course to “help” our judges.  Thanks for sharing!

My Father made the first course, a rustic pumpkin soup with a side of corn bread topped with melted cheese.  He used the eggnog in both the bread and the soup.

Pumpkin eggnog soup

Pumpkin eggnog soup

Then my nephew Zac presented the salad course.  The orange and spinach salad was topped with a truly amazing citrus and eggnog dressing.  The judges said his was the course they would definitely eat again.  Me too!  He actually won with the salad and as a “prize” got to take all the leftovers home.

The winning salad

The winning salad

Mom and Darcy (Zac’s finance) had the main dish.  This was a lovely chicken with a lemony gravy but the only place the eggnog was used was to dip the chicken before breading it and frying it up.  As much as we appreciated the break from the eggnog and as tasty as the chicken was,  the judges ruled it was a little bit of a cop-out.

Lemony chicken

Lemony chicken

I had the side and made au gratin potatoes with egg nog, lots of cheese a little bacon and some scallions.  It was good, but the sugar of the eggnog made it a little sweet.  I also didn’t have the pan I wanted so the potatoes were a little under cooked.

potatoes

potatoes

We took a little (much needed) break before tackling Karina and Danny’s desert.  She made a chocolate Frangelico pudding with eggnog and then topped it with those candied hazelnuts.  It was really good!  It was also really pretty and really rich.  I suspect part of the reason she lost to Zac is because everyone expected her to do well.  I also think that by the time we got to desert we were all too full to appreciate anything properly!  When she found out the “prize” Karina was happy to concede.

Not just any pudding

Not just any pudding

Is it any wonder I wasn’t 100% the next day? I wouldn’t want to eat (or cook) like that everyday.  It was great fun though and I’m finding myself missing everyone.  I’ll just have to get out of the house of “ick” and appreciate the sunshine!

Magic

A house in my neighborhood.

A house in my neighborhood.

There is something about this time of year that is simply magical.  Maybe because it gets dark so early we find ourselves outside in the night a little more often.  The stars sparkle and their light is reflected on the snow.  Because its cold the air feels clear.  There is a sharpness to sound that evokes the ringing of bells.

Solstice Blessings

Solstice Blessings

There is a fantastical element to all the lights and decorations.  Santa can be seen in his red suit.  But Santa can also be found in small acts of kindness.  Smiles and seasons greetings pop up in unexpected places.  Generosity is abundant (and often unbounded when credit cards come to hand).  Giving small gifts of time, handmade treasures and treats or the perfect purchase is it’s own reward.

Orion is telling his good buddy Santa all about spreading holiday cheer.

Orion is telling his good buddy Santa all about spreading holiday cheer.

The season lends itself to surprises.  Unexpected guests drop in.  Carolers seem to appear from nowhere in the malls.  The postman brings cards and letters from friends far away, and sometimes packages.  It snows on the internet and inboxes are filled with invitations to festive celebrations of friends and family.

Time is funny between the solstice and New Years day.  School children are underfoot destroying any sense of routine. The offices that are open seem to have more free spaces in the day for chatting with co-workers or stealing treats from the break room.  Holiday hours are posted making that late night run for milk sometimes a tricky affair.  The mail and the garbage man seem to come intermittently and never when you expect.

The lights on my tree are Karina and Orion.

The lights on my tree are Karina and Orion.

Even staying at home can get busy.  There are presents to wrap and cookies to bake.  The smells fill the house and evoke memories of holidays past.  Boxes of decorations have been brought out of storage.  They also hold memories, keepsakes of holidays past.

All this can be frustrating and annoying and cloying and difficult.  But take a deep breath, and remember how special this time of year can be.  Slow down and notice the magic, the spirit, and the joy.  Stop before rushing off and take in the night, and the cold, and the clarity.

May the magic of the season stay with you through-out the coming year.

Hearthfires burning

Hearthfires burning

Time

Between the holiday and the heat I feel like I’ve lost a week.  Those of you who follow me regularly will have noticed that I didn’t get this weeks blog posted on Monday.  It’s not that I didn’t have anything to say.  It’s just that I didn’t feel like it.   Monday after a holiday is difficult, because in a lot of cases it’s still a holiday.  The virtues of living in America where everything is adjusted to accommodate the corporate culture.

With the 4th falling mid-week the holiday weekend was kind of neither and both.  There were fireworks, public and private, on both weekends.  There was the day off in the middle of the week.  There was unbearable heat across most of the country.

highs for 7/4/2012

I’ve never moved out of Minnesota for a reason.  I don’t do well in the heat.  Sure, when we have heat it’s especially horrible because of the humidity.  Even at its worst a Minnesota heat wave is not July in Florida!  In the southwest the heat is supposed to be more bearable because it’s dry.  It’s true.   85 degrees is almost still pleasant in the southwest.  However, anything more than 90 is pretty horrible for me regardless.

That midweek vacation day was cause for me to join some friends for an overnight in the woods.  A little spiritual retreat to connect with friends and nature.  We weren’t really roughing it.  We stayed at a friends home.  They have a lovely secluded spot a couple of hours out of the Twin Cities and across the Minnesota/Wisconsin state line.

Usually it’s delightful to be away from the noise of the city and out of cell phone range for a day or two.  Usually the lack of air conditioning is compensated for by the shade of the trees and the fresh breezes.  Not this time. It was just plain too hot!  It was too hot to walk down to the creek to cool off.  It was too hot to dig out the camera to take photos.  It was too hot to think.  When the time came to get back into the car and head home I was just a puddle of goo.

This is actually late July or early August of 09, when it was MUCH cooler. Some of the same friends though.

Thankfully my car does have working air conditioning.  I felt like I’d “woken up” about an hour into the drive home with the fan on full blast.  Of course it didn’t hurt that about then I hit the traffic delayed by city fireworks as people looked for parking and good seats.

It was surreal driving home with an occasional distraction of blasts of color and light in the distance.  It would have been fun to have just been the passenger.  Then I would have been able to watch the fireworks without having to pay attention to the road.

This was one of those times when I needed a vacation to recover from my vacation.  Because I don’t really get one (it’s a mom thing) it takes a little longer to reorient and recover.  So I feel like I’ve lost time.  I should somehow have almost another week before this blog is due.  It can’t possibly be Monday already.  Or Tuesday.  Or whatever day I finally get around to posting this.

Do you find time a little harder to keep track of in the summer?  When you take a vacation?  When you put excessive demands on your body?

Ancestors and Descendants

It’s the end of pretty autumn and the beginning of dead fall.  Halloween which is all about dressing up as the thing you either most desire or most fear, and eating candy until you’re sick.  Samhein about acknowledging the death of the growing season with the last of the harvest in and the gifts (probably prophetic) of the ancestors.  Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, a great time for a picnic with the relatives both living and passed. A chance to catch up on the news of the year on both sides of the veil.   All Saints Day, assuming of course that the Saints are also dead and that they have only positive things to offer.

I find myself starting to plan the annual holiday schedule.  What day is Thanksgiving dinner and who’s going to show up?  If I plan to spend the night do I get the bedroom or a couch or the floor?  Any rum cakes that have been started and will need regular tending.  I’ve received the list of ‘gifts I would like’ from my daughter, “just in case anyone asks.”   The calendar is filling up already into January.

We lost another member of the family this year.  It makes the ancestor part of the holiday a bit bittersweet.  I do find myself reminiscing in the season.  I no longer have my Grandparents, a niece and a nephew and a handful of very close friends, some of whom have been gone over 30 years.  The pets that have come through our lives over the years also check in to my memory around this time.

But life also goes on.  My daughter and her boyfriend are negotiating the family holiday exchange for the first time this year.  It’s likely that the timing will work in their favor since they both come from families accustomed to making accommodations.  But I’m not sure they both will get the time off work they will need to hit everyone’s celebrations.  Like the season demonstrates, part of life is learning about giving things up.

So I do a final weeding and bury the ancestor garden under a pile of leaves.  I’ll need to decide what to add next year to honor this years passed.  I’ll light a candle or two in memory and sit in meditation.  Hopefully I’ll get a pat on the shoulder or even a warm embrace by the ghost of one of my loved ones.

For me this is not the holiday of one day.  I don’t enjoy a dumb supper sitting in silence while the dead are invited to feast.  I am not a vigilant keeper of shrines to my ancestors, so I am not called to tidy them up for the holiday visit.  Instead I take long walks in the dry leaves kicking up ghosts and smiles.  I talk to the wind, light a fire, pull out a hand made blanket.

I am grateful to the spirits of ancestors past.  Those who love me beyond all reason and continue to support me in my life.  I am grateful for the lessons you have taught me in your life and in your passing.  I am grateful for the love that I continue to carry in my heart.

I am grateful also to my descendants.  I hope to also be remembered in love and gratitude.  I hope that I have made a mark on one or two lives that made a real difference.  I am grateful for the opportunity to pass on the few things I have learned so far in this life.

Seasons blessings

%d bloggers like this: